Championship game could come early in SWAC Tournament

The Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament opened on Tuesday at the Toyota Center in Houston, with Alabama State men’s and women’s basketball teams scheduled to play on Thursday in quarterfinal action.

The real action begins today as the hottest teams in the women’s bracket start play. Third-seeded Jackson State, winners of five straight, plays Mississippi Valley today at 10 a.m. and fifth-seeded Alabama State, winners of seven straight before losing to Jackson on Saturday, play Prairie View at 5:30 p.m.

The winner of Saturday’s championship game at noon will find out their destination in the NCAA Tournament on the Monday night selection show.

The focus, however, is on the men’s bracket that included four teams banned from NCAA play because of failing APR scores. Alabama State, one of the five eligible teams alive as of Wednesday night, plays Alcorn State on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

“You have to win three games to win the championship, but we are going to go out and focus on playing a good game against Alcorn,” ASU coach Lewis Jackson said. “We’ve won three in a row on a couple of different occasions so we have proved we can do that. All we need to do is get that first win out of the way and then you start to feel good about yourself.”

The Hornets can also feel good about themselves because of the strange bracket that features the ineligible teams. Should Southern win Wednesday night and Arkansas-Pine Bluff win on Thursday night, the winner of the Alcorn-ASU game will play Texas Southern on Friday at 2:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the NCAA Tournament because neither Southern nor UAPB can advance.

The “championship” game, in that scenario, would be an incredibly strange event in which ESPN announcers will be spending more time talking about the eligible team (TSU, ASU or Alcorn), even if UAPB or Southern is winning the game.

The championship game is set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2. But the real “championship” game may be held on Friday at 2:30, with the winner of that game learning its NCAA destination on Sunday night.

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About tgayle

Tim Gayle is a sports reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper and montgomeryadvertiser.com.
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